DiveIn Festival Opening Address: Women in Insurance

HFG recently attended several sessions at the “Inclusion at Lloyd’s” initiative: DiveIn Festival. Hosted at various Insurance companies in the City of London, the initiative focused on awareness, best practice and embracing innovation and talent through diversity and inclusion (D&I) in the London Market.CQDo9dWWsAA2YVk

The conference opened with an address at the Willis Auditorium by Lloyd’s of London CEO Inga Beale, CEO of XL Group Mike McGavick and Baroness Karren Brady CBE.

All three discussed what the current issues were for women – not only in Insurance but in business in general, focusing on what needs to change in the Lloyd’s Market to challenge these issues and move the industry forwards in terms of D&I.

Inga Beale shared her own career experience with us, drinking at The Lamb being one of her key memories! The recollection included her once thinking (when taking a career break) that she was ‘never going to work in Insurance again’. Fortunately she is still with us and after her own appointment at Lloyd’s of London commented that the Insurance market needs to ‘start embracing all types of talent’.

Mike McGavick, went on to discuss that he believed that there are three fundamental things that need to happen to embraces D&I and ‘if it doesn’t come from the top – it goes nowhere’. These are:

1.Strategic & Cultural change
There is a necessity for role models and mentors to promote an internal cultural vision. There needs to be more examples of successful women throughout the organisation so that others can think ‘I can get that’. Without this direction, the industry is going to lose key talent.

2. Structural change

Ensure that each member of staff has the opportunity to be associated with all aspects of the business. Employees need to; ‘get out there, be out there, be visible’. We also need to harness the development of technology to enable careers to thrive. It is also not only about internal policies (maternity/parental/flexible working), but also society needs to make changes so that perceptions in the workplace change.

3. How you hire
McGavick went on to say that hires can only be made in the XL Catlin Group where it was proved that there was a diverse pool of candidates to choose from in the first place. This poses a major question that needs to be answered…

However, for recruiters, our aim is to always find the best candidate for the role, however whose responsibility is it to ensure that the candidate pool is diverse? The recruiter? The industry? The Government? Schools? Statistics released from the DiveIn Festival state that only 1% of school leavers are interested in a career in Insurance. This number needs to change to ensure that the candidate pools for the future become more diverse.

Baroness Brady continued the discussion regarding staffing and that it is common practice that managers hire people who have similar traits to them and this doesn’t enable organisations to become more diverse. Individuals should ‘employ people who challenge them [you] as you often get carried away with likeminded people’. This idea was confirmed in a session on day two of the festival by PDT about Unconscious Bias. We unconsciously (and sometimes consciously) recruit people that we are akin to – and this decision usually begins as soon as we read their CV. To diversify our talent pools, we need to make a conscious decision to stop this from happening.

A more concerning fact is that we miss talent due to unconscious bias.  Name, nationality and education are all examples where unfortunately some people may form opinions.

Brady went on to say that women are often seen as ruthless where; ‘ambition and ruthlessness are not the same thing’. More often than not, these two things get muddled and perceived in the wrong way. However, ‘persistence is the most important ingredient of all’ meaning that, you can be ambitious and ruthless but in order to succeed you need to be persistent.

The Q&A raised a number of interesting questions. One of the topics that was discussed was that some people are born with the drive and determination but others are not, and what impact does this have on women in general? Baroness Brady commented that some women don’t have the drive or the desire to be career driven – and that is OK. The key is to find out what makes you happy.

She went on to point out that the biggest barrier for encouraging women to stay in the corporate environment is the lack of affordable childcare; ‘if you don’t have good enough help to leave your children at home – you won’t go back to work.  If your company doesn’t respect you to fulfill your ambitions – you won’t go back to work. If your company won’t be flexible to allow you to bring up a family – you won’t go back to work’. These are strong statements, but true in many cases.

The reality is that women have babies and men don’t.  The key question, recognising that some people will always want to leave the city, is how do we attract back all of the women that want to come back? That means addressing Baroness Brady’s observations.

It’s not about running the business as much as it is about ‘laying down the pathway’. It is about perceptions and there is nothing wrong about being an ambitious woman, there’s nothing wrong with not wanting everything either, but the important thing is realising what you want and getting it.

Inga Beale admitted that she refused a promotion because she wasn’t ‘confident enough’ so was sent on a course called ‘assertiveness for women’ – something that we would struggle to find in today’s workplaces! Beale also commented that the increase of entrepreneurs has played a significant part in the amount of women leaving the corporate world. That there is a misguided perception that starting up your own business is going to be ‘easier’ than going back to the corporate environment. The reality being that individuals will be working just as hard even though they will not be restricted by the office hours or culture. However, setting up your own business is one more step towards having financial security for yourself and being responsible and in control of it. The bottom line being that some women may not want to be at the top, but may still want a rich and fulfilling career – in whatever guise it may be.

The final pertinent word came from a question in the audience. It is great that the industry has recognised the importance that D&I plays in the Insurance market and that it has now taken these first steps to build awareness, take responsibility and start to make changes. It was also amazing to see the Willis Auditorium filled with 95% women that morning. However the fact that we were all sitting there agreeing with the discussions taking place, demonstrates that we are already in acceptance of the changes that are required. The next step is engaging with those who were not present and start educating why these changes need to take place sooner rather than later.

DiveIn festival is just one of the steps that Inclusion at Lloyd’s have taken to raise awareness of the changes that need to happen regarding diversity and inclusion in the market. Once more aspirational females achieve senior level positions and boards start to engage their companies in diversity and inclusion, the sooner we will have a more diverse industry overall, more successful workplaces and more diverse talent pools to recruit from in the future.


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